200 Yard Firearm Ban Proposed

Jack writes:

According to Channel 29, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Camblos is pushing the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors for a ban on the discharge of firearms within 200 yards of any house in Albemarle. Including rurally-zoned property.

Camblos reportedly told the Board that he was shocked that no such law is currently in place, which appears to conflict with the fact that Albemarle County already bans the discharge of firearms within 50 feet of a house or road. The discharge of a firearm is already illegal in residentially-zoned subdivisions. The measure would prevent most rural residents of Albemarle County from either engaging in target practice or hunting on their own land.

Board member Denis Rooker spoke favorably towards the proposal and indicated a willingness to vote for it. The measure was proposed as a response to the ‘Bentivar cat-killer’ case, despite the fact that shooting your neighbor’s cat is already illegal and the culprit was convicted and given a prison sentence.

An errant bullet from a .22 will travel up to 2 miles unless it hits a target or a safe backstop first. Thus it is unclear how regulations banning the discharge of a firearm within 200 yards of a house would be any safer than either the current 50 foot rule or even a 1 mile rule.

18 thoughts on “200 Yard Firearm Ban Proposed”

  1. Albemarle County code currently states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge any firearm within the boundaries of any residential district within the county; provided, however, that no person discharging a firearm within such a district in defense of person or property as otherwise permitted by law shall be deemed to have violated this section” (Sec 10-107). For residences within rural zonings, I could maybe see an ordinance against shooting within 200 yards of someone else’s house; an ordinance prohibiting shooting within that radius of one’s own house would be way too draconian (plus unenforceable). It’s not clear from the article which of those interpretations they have in mind.

  2. Assuming square lots with houses in the center:
    If the ban only applies to discharge near other homes, no lot smaller than 8.25 acres could support legal discharge.
    If it applies also to one’s own home, 16.5 acres would be required.

    Anyway, perhaps Camblos would be happier in DC. I would be happier with him there.

  3. § 18.2-56.1. Reckless handling of firearms; reckless handling while hunting.

    A. It shall be unlawful for any person to handle recklessly any firearm so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

    I would say shooting a person’s house or onto their property where there is a reasonable chance of injury, no matter how far away you are is reckless and in violation of this law.

  4. Mr Camblos says he’s shocked to find no such law exists. I believe he’s been Commonwealth Attorney for many years. If he hasn’t had to look into it until now then we must not have a problem. The cat-shooter was convicted and sentenced. This gun-control law would not have saved the cat. I, for one, will not vote for any advocate of unnecessary gun ban laws.

  5. Jack writes “Camblos reportedly told the Board that he was shocked that no such law is currently in place”

    COMMENT: ” Rick. I am shocked, shocked I tell you………….”

    “An errant bullet from a .22 will travel up to 2 miles unless it hits a target or a safe backstop first”

    COMMENT: Or an unsafe one for that matter. That goes for a bullet not errant as well.

  6. I thought we already had a law about shooting near homes.

    I live in a wooded community in the hills. A few years back I heard a loud gunshot and looked out the window to see three hunters about 50 feet into the woods beyond my backyard going after the deer they had just shot. My neighbors called the Albemarle County cops, and before the hunters could drag the deer to their truck, the cops were already waiting for them. They were handcuffed and taken away. Their vehicle was towed. Why anyone would want to hunt in a suburban neighborhood is mystifying to me, especially given that the ‘hood has been there more than 25 years.

  7. Okay, even if the proposed ordinance would prohibit shooting within 200 yards of your neighbor’s house, what would be the problem if a hunter were, say, 100 yards away from a neighbor’s house and shooting away from the house? Or, what if two neighbors decided to set up a safely designed shooting range, situated 150 yards from each house, so they could shoot target practice together?

    What is the point of this ordinance? The assumption seems to be that hunters engage in unsafe practices. I haven’t found that to be the case. This looks like a solution in search of a problem.

  8. proctologistview,

    It’s already illegal to deliberately shoot at someone’s house. So the only rational issue here could be errant rounds.

    Many of my neighbors hunt. My closest neighbor’s house is about 100 yards from my house. He goes out back and shoots targets about once a week. He is perfectly welcome to do this all he wants. Hell, he ought to come over some time and we could shoot some skeet together at my place. I don’t need the BoS to start protecting me from my neighbor. When he shoots at a target frame in front of a backstop he is endangering me and my home no more than a car is when it drives past my house at 55 miles per hour. Are we going to ban cars within 200 yards of houses? What’s the difference? People get killed by cars all the time in Albemarle. It’s been years and years since anyone was killed by an errant bullet fired by someone engaging in otherwise legal shooting within 200 yards of a house.

    In the case of both the car and the rifle society is able to trust people to use a potentially deadly device in a safe way. If anything I feel much safer about the shooting, given that in order to obtain a hunting license in Virginia one must go through a 10 hour hunter education class with an exam at the end. When I got my driver’s license at the age of 20 all I had to do was show up the DMV, take a 15 minute test and a 10 minute road test. The state class I took last week for a hunting license was far more intensive.

    This whole thing essentially amounts to one more attack against Albemarle’s rural character. It’s one more way for Jim Camblos and big developers to give the finger to people who want to live traditional, rural lives on agricultural property. They won’t be happy until the whole county is one big strip mall.

    This needs to be fought with every bit as much fervor as we fight huge new housing developments and irresponsible sprawl. Whether or not you even own a gun, we should all recognize this as a big step towards being turned into the next Loudoun County.

  9. it’s a knee-jerk reaction to an isolated incident which, if properly handled, wouldn’t have caused this big an uproar. camblos knows he handled the case poorly, so now he’s trying to save face by “making our county safer.” the reality is, he needs to enforce the laws on the books more effectively instead of creating new, unnecessary legislation.

  10. Jack says:proctologistview,

    It’s already illegal to deliberately shoot at someone’s house. So the only rational issue here could be errant rounds.

    Jack, no big deal. The point was to the range not the act. Range is the same – no qualifier required.

  11. My understanding has always been that laws like this (the no shooting in residential areas) were not concieved because people were aiming their guns at something in the neighborhood- but were instead a result of people discharging firearms aimed into the air as a form of celebration. In a crowded city that usually meant that the bullet came back down to earth from it’s freefall and killed someone on a holiday night (4th of July, New Years Eve, Etc). And more often then not that someone (in the cities I’ve lived in where this happened) was someone’s kid.

    Granted there isn’t much of that happening in this area.

    I don’t really have an opinion on this issue, I’m not a hunter or gun owner, and if I had to use a firearm out of real need none of these laws would stop me. Plus I’d have to physically be at a location for someone to demonstrate how large of an area 200 yards are before I could develop an understanding of how much space that is. I’ve never been good at estimating distance.

  12. Plus I’d have to physically be at a location for someone to demonstrate how large of an area 200 yards are before I could develop an understanding of how much space that is. I’ve never been good at estimating distance.

    I’m with you, so I checked it out in Google Earth. Two hundred yards is the distance from the Second Street crossing to Chaps Ice Cream. Or, if you prefer, the distance from Water Street to Market Street.

  13. TrvlnMn,

    I’ve never seen or heard of anyone doing that in Albemarle County, ever. The people who are out there engaging in target practice and hunting – and indeed the people who would even be aware of the specific local laws regarding firearms – are part of a culture of safety. Go to any firing range, take any class on shooting or hunting, show up for any organized hunt or visit any shooting-related event and you will see that these people are all obsessed with firearms safety and constantly reiterating the rules for the safe handling of firearms.

    That random dude in the beat-up pickup truck with 4 days of beard on him, driving with no shirt and a deer rifle in the back of the cab will immediately transform into the firearms equivilant of Smokey the Bear the minute that he sees someone mishandling a firearm. I’ve really been amazed at how deeply ingrained this stuff is among gun owners.

    This is a solution in search of a problem. The worst possible reason to make law.

  14. So my question is: what’s the law about discharing firearms within the City of Charlottesville?

    The problem here is that ‘Albemarle County’ isn’t equally dense from border to border. There are sections which are as dense as many parts of Charlottesville — indeed ARE parts of Charlottesville, except for the inanities of legal geographic definitions. Much by-right development going on in the county creates a series of houses which obliterate the actual rural character of the land. Certainly, the designated growth areas are en route to city-like density in many areas.

    City-like laws for city-like areas seems to make sense. The real question is how can the county go about balancing laws to create reasonable safety and reasonable freedom for its citizens.

  15. Elizabeth,

    Within the City of Charlottesville one is not permitted to discharge a firearm at all. Which is reasonable since this is in fact a city and everyone in a city accepts that there are certain standards that ought to apply in a city as opposed to a rural area.

    As far as reasonable safety goes, there haven’t been any problems. Where is the cascade of emergency room cases that would justify changing County policy? You are right that it is important to balance reasonable safety with reasonable freedom. And the basic facts demonstrate that we have already done that with our current body of laws. The lack of bullets flying into people’s houses proves to us that there is not a problem.

    You are right that when an area in the County becomes overly built-up then we cannot allow people to shoot there. That is part of why we have different kinds of zoning. Shooting is already off-limits in residential subdivisions (and if I recall, all commercially zoned property). Discharging a firearm is only allowed on agriculturally-zoned property. Which is how it should be.

    The balance has already been struck. The Bentivar cat-killer was sent to prison. It is already illegal to shoot at someone’s house. Our current body of law clearly works. The Camblos proposal would not enhance safety. It is merely a way for an unpopular politician to change the subject and an exercise in ignorance and paranoia overcoming reason.

    To those of you who do not do any recreational shooting this seems like no big deal. Please understand that there is a very large group of people to whom this does matter a great deal. I shoot targets nearly every day and I have never offered you or any other person injury. Those of us with legally-owned firearms in the County are not hurting you, we’re not bothering you and we pose no threat to you. We hold ourselves to a high standard and undergo extensive training in order to ensure safety. What do you lose in allowing us our freedom? What have I ever done to you that would make you want to do this to me? Please do not step on something so very important to us out of idle paranoia.

  16. Jack, your post says it all. The present laws work fine. And the whole issue has been about someone killing someone’s pet, NOT about reckless target shooting in developed areas. Why was a change in firearms laws even brought to the table?
    As if someone who wanted to maliciously kill someone’s pet, or even shoot at another person would be deterred a law against discharging firearms with a certian number of feet of a house.
    One thing that would be good is rigorous enforcement of hunting laws, especially against trespassing to hunt. Its likely that someone who would go onto private property without permission to hunt would also be someone who didnt care about about proper safety practices. Poachers and “slob hunters” give all sportsmen and women a bad name.

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